When the world shifted online in 2020, millions (if not billions) of us were introduced to Zoom – and to ‘Zoombombing.’
This is when uninvited people make their way into Zoom events to take over the screen and share something unsavoury – to put it nicely.
But a new group of Zoombombers have emerged: men who break into Zoom meetings and expose themselves on camera, sometimes masturbating on screen.
A freelance writer for Insider said that it happened to them when hosting an online meditation and mindfulness space for writers session for A Very Important Meeting (AVIM).
According to the writer, the man turned his video on 30 minutes into the event, pointed his camera at his naked groin and began masturbating.
They struggled to kick the man out as quickly as possible due to the shocking nature of the occurrence.
AVIM changed its protocols for access and sign in but organisations or meeting coordinators can not always be sure of the intentions of someone who purports to be a member of the group but has sexual harassment in mind.
“There are measures that we can put in place to try to increase our safety, but there is no complete safety that you can assure,” David Ley, a clinical psychologist and sexual-health expert, said.
One person reportedly stole a students’ log-in to sexually harass a professor in class at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
The man randomly turned his camera on in class to expose himself. After being removed from the class he returned minutes later and the lecturer had to shut down the entire lecture.
The lecturer reportedly had an inbox full of students shocked and traumatised by what had happened with shocking emails.
“What happened was so upsetting; I am afraid it will happen in all my classes now,” one student wrote.
“I cannot learn this way and would like you to excuse me from attending any other classes on Zoom,” wrote another.
Zoombombers have even gone after AA meetings. Dawn, a woman from New York City who frequently attends AA meetings, said her group was frequently met by Zoombombings.
The group had to set up safe-guards to prevent this from happening which was difficult consider AA is meant to be welcoming to strangers.
“This is a really messed-up thing to do when there are people trying to quit drinking and want to show up to a meeting,” Dawn said.
Unfortunately it may not be possible to completely prevent this, according to Ley.
“We can’t make the online environment completely safe, because the world’s not safe,” Ley said.
“But what we can do is increase the degree to which people can seek help and support after encounters. This is happening with lots of people. And the more we can draw attention to that, the less people will feel like they did something wrong.”